‘Big Ben’ doesn’t fit, with even the remotest comfort, into any of the known trance categories. The intro is spacey and atmospheric, but is too propellant and driving to be progressive trance. Note arrangements, sounds and FX varying from the melodic to the strident, all further brilliantly muddy the waters. With an anomalous, standout male choral vocal hung hauntingly in the mid-section’s background, all told this is inspired music making.
'1983/Here & Now'
Having nothing discernibly ‘80s about it, ‘1983’ is instead low-key, low-tempo, but never less than listenable. Unlikely to tip many modern day trance floors into critical mass though, it’s largely the hor d'oeuvre for ‘Here and Now’. Vocalled idiosyncratically by Ben Heyworth, it glances at its navel more than once (we’ll forgive it), and is wonderfully, genuinely angsty and atmospheric.
'Empire of Hearts'
With Armin apparently making more of a distinct division between his van Buuren output and Gaia material, you wonder if an album might be on the cards. ‘Empire of Hearts’ draws on strident, cylindrical synths for a sonically convincing opener. In the break it gets wicked with the pitch-bend, amping the atmosphere, and pulls off a conclusion that’ll send the faithful home with a smile.
Cosmic Gate With Eric Lumiere
Wake Your Mind/Armada Music
First single from C.G.’s sixth studio album, and a palpably different chord being struck from festival thrasher ‘So Get Up’. Distortion, electro, electronica and test-tone frequencies conspire for a distinct and original intro. From the first drop on though, it becomes far more about Eric’s soulful sing-along song, inspiringly juxtaposed with Cosmic Gate’s vividly bleached-out synth riffs and lo-fi piano lines. Anthem-in-a-can? Very likely.
'Fiero (Chris Metcalfe Remix)'
A year on from the 'Original', Chris Metcalfe gives ‘Fiero’ a later night re-bake. True to his 138 form, style-wise there’s nothing to scare the horses here. Feisty tempo, a formidably deep drive to its vigorous bass, shimmery, chiming melodics in the run to the drop and a cliff-dive off the edge into glacial effects, and finally, a rip-roaring synth conclusion.
Australian producer Tygris has all the bases covered here. ‘Lyra’ largely represents a homecoming to Enhanced Progressive’s core sound, with lots of sifting, drifting melody and echoing vocal harmonics. It’s blown clean from the water by ‘Red Room’ though. Containing the most innovative production techniques of the month, its sounds and strings are bent, warped, delayed and detuned with endless ingenuity.
After ‘Phenomenology’ and ‘Fiber’, something altogether subtler and tougher to sub-pigeonhole from Jules. ‘Monte Carlo’ has a Balearic-ish feel, with warm pads overturing an electro-ish burr. Chopping and echoing a female harmonic over the top, when the more uplifting synth notes breach the break, they’re of a well-judged nature. Tonally, unlikely to bring a main stage to its knees, this nonetheless has the full ‘Monte’.
'Stuck In Sa Caleta'
London’s finest trance purveyors seem to be entering another golden era at the moment. Andrew Bayer and Norin & Rad’s Artificial cooperative promptly trump their stunning ‘Prototype’ debut here. If getting stuck on the titular Playa comes with a sound-bed of angular techno waveforms, jacking beats, and skilfully cranked tension, we’re in. Break-side, it delivers harmonics, Moog-ish asides, the grandest of grand pianos and an out-of-your-chair crescendo. Brilliance.
Gareth Emery feat Bo Bruce
'U (Remixes) '
First single from Gareth’s ‘Drive’ album, which (allegedly) has at least one toe back inside the trance camp. Bryan Kearney’s mix is, of course, more of a chasm-ing leap in that direction. Playing off a full rendition of Bo Bruce’s polished, expensive-sounding vocals, he shadows them with lucent harmonics, echoing piano and, finally, sky-touching synth lines. W&W’s mix hits much more of a big room feel, but some tough(er) trance moments also feature.